Monday, December 18, 2017

Tally shows Egypt's Islamists dominate vote

CAIRO — Final results on Saturday showed that Islamist parties won nearly three-quarters of the seats in parliament in Egypt's first elections since the ouster of authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak, according to election officials and political groups.

The Islamist domination of Egypt's parliament has worried liberals and even some conservatives about the religious tone of the new legislature, which will be tasked with forming a committee to write a new constitution.

The final tally comes as little surprise since election results had been partially announced throughout the three stages of the vote, which took place over several weeks across the country.

In the vote for the lower house of parliament, a coalition led by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood won 47 percent, or 235 seats in the 498-seat parliament. The hard-line Islamist Salafi Al-Nour party was second with 25 percent, or 125 seats.

The Salafi Al-Nour wants to impose strict Islamic law in Egypt, while the more moderate Brotherhood, the country's best-known and organized party, has said publicly that it does not seek to force its views about an appropriate Islamic lifestyle on Egyptians.

Both parties have a long history of charity work in Egypt's vast poverty-stricken neighborhoods and villages, giving both a degree of legitimacy and popularity.

The liberals who spearheaded the revolt that toppled Mubarak last February struggled to organize and connect with a broader public during the election.

The Egyptian bloc, which is headed by a party founded by Christian telecom tycoon Naguib Sawiris, said it won 9 percent of the seats in parliament. Egypt's oldest secular party, the Wafd, also won around 9 percent.

Newer parties, such as the liberal Revolution Continues Party, won 2 percent, as did the Islamist Center Party, which was banned from politics under Mubarak.

The United States long shunned Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and turned a blind eye to the arrest and torture of Salafis, who now comprise the bulk of Al-Nour's constituents, under Mubarak, who was a longtime U.S. ally.

However, top U.S. officials from the State Department have recently met with the Muslim Brotherhood's leaders, who have in turn assured Western officials that they respect minority rights and support democracy.

A White House statement said that President Barack Obama called Egypt's ruling military leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, on Friday and welcomed the historic seating of the lower house of Egypt's parliament, which is set to convene for the first time on Monday.

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